A large ensemble melding jazz, rock, klezmer, cartoon and the avant-garde into a compelling and cohesive whole, led by Sam Eastmond the Spike Orchestra is dedicated to creating new music and exploring the conceptual limits of the big band, taking what is possible and stretching it to breaking point.
Originating in 2012 as a series of workshop sessions by composers Eastmond and Nikki Franklin and inspired by John Zorn's conceptual approach to the rock band with his Naked City project, Carl Stalling, JG Thirlwell and the New York Downtown scene as well as the more obvious big band works of Ellington, Gil Evans and Carla Bley the band has evolved into a formidable studio project.
Early experiments and live shows led to a move away from standalone pieces and a pursuit of longer more cohesive works explored in live and early recording experiments. The ensemble has a fluid list of collaborative musicians, the one constant being composer/arranger Eastmond with producer Ben Greenslade-Stanton.
2014 saw the culmination of the early years experimentation and exploration, it also saw Eastmond's compulsion to explore the Jewish side of his identity as an artist and a growing sense of identification with Zorn's Masada books and Radical Jewish Culture series come to the fore and coalesce into the recording of Ghetto
The bands debut full-length album is an ambitious large scale work comprising three configurations of ensemble, including the full 22 piece Big Band. This ten movement narrative suite commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto uprising is a deeply personal journey.
"Eastmond's inventively effective mix of avant contemporary and more rootsy styles turns out to be a passionately eclectic musical on its subject....that seems to celebrate the fiery resilience and humanity of the ghetto uprising rather than focus on heavier, more dour aspects - the expected musical response to such a catastrophic historical event. But it's all the better for it."
Jazzwise June 2015
In 2015 The Spike Orchestra became the first British artists to record a volume of John Zorn's Masada Book Two: The Book of Angels series, comprising over 300 tunes and 31 albums Masada Book Two is a monolithic achievement of Radical Jewish Culture. Featuring legendary artists including Pat Metheny, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Marc Ribot, Uri Caine and David Krakauer. The Spike Orchestra are the first and only big band in the series and one of only a handful of musicians outside the Downtown New York their album Volume 26: Cerberus is described by Tzadik as "one of the most imaginative and manic masterpieces in the whole series." featured in best of the year critics picks and was described by London Jazz News as "John Zorn from a full on big-band with some delicious arrangements of ten tunes.....has gone straight into my 'Best of the Year' selection." by London Jazz News.
2017 saw a return to the studio and an intense period of work after Eastmond was asked by Zorn to return to Masada and contribute an album to the upcoming ten-album Masada Book Three project. Comprising of ten albums by ten artists and slated for a 2018 release as one complete package The Book Beriah features an outrageous line up
of artists and projects and The Spike Orchestra become one of a very
few artists to record more than one Masada album.
Although after the early workshop years the band became mainly a studio project with Eastmond and producer Ben Greenslade-Stanton working on album releases, 2016 saw rare live performance of
Cerberus in its entirety at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
The line up of the band remains fluid depending on the project, notable musical collaborators over the years alongside Eastmond include;
John Zorn (composer) Nikk Franklin (co-composer)
Mike Wilkins, Paul Booth, Josephine Davies, Gemma Moore, Vasilis Xenopoulos, James Arben, Mick Foster, Erica Clarke (Reeds)
Noel Langley, Yazz Ahmed, George Hogg, James Davison, Adam Chatterton, Karen Straw (Trumpets)
Ben Greenslade-Stanton, Tim Smart, Harry Brown, Ashley Slater (Trombone)
Oren Marshall, Dave Powell, Jeff Miller (Tuba)
Moss Freed, Ant Law (Guitar)
Elliot Galvin, Sam Leak (Piano)
Mike Guy (Accordion)
Mark Lewandowski, Otto Willberg (Bass)
Will Glaser, Pete Cater, Chris Nickolls (Drums)